New Apostolic Church USA

Closer Together

"Closer Together" from the 2020 Summer Vision Newsletter

The District Apostle related the following story:

Several years ago, in my local congregation, my father was invited to talk with some of the Sunday school students for what they called “children’s church.” It was a chance for members to speak and connect with the children in the congregation. As my father was a retired minister, most of the students were expecting a discussion that was akin to preaching. However, when they got together, my father told them stories related to the sermon theme, they actually talked with each other, and there was laughing and true connection.

A few years later, as my father was in the hospital during his last days, one of the boys, who had shared the experience with my father years before in that discussion, was moved to go with his father for this visit. He took this time and ended up being the last person to pray with my father.

In these two experiences, I don’t just see an older man and a young boy spending time together. I see two souls connecting with one another in their love for Christ, the motivating power behind both of their actions. It did not matter that there was almost 70 years separating them. This is what it means to be part of the the body of Christ: working in His love for one another, providing for each other’s needs, and, in the process, pastorally caring for each other despite age, race, class, education, etc. because this is what Christ has called His disciples to do.

Instead of celebrating and embracing our diversity, we often focus too much on what makes us different, and thus, limit ourselves in reaching out to those around us. Only with an open mind and heart can we invest our time, energy, and resources in other people to demonstrate our love for them and encourage them to see and develop in the ways of Christ.

This idea is one of the driving forces behind our Faith Arc initiative...

...which is a strategy that supports the continual development of a soul as is transitions through different life stages, with an emphasis on children, youth, and young adults. We seek to foster a culture of learning that is continuous, where each person in their season of life (including higher age) can continue to learn and grow, and also help others to do the same. This requires a relationship to exist among all in the congregation. God gave us the community of believers, and proper stewardship of this gift from Him enables us to use those relationships to grow.

We have seen an example of this in one of our congregations. A group of seniors, inspired by a message in a divine service, got together and decided that they would try to help the younger members in their congregation as much as possible. Among these younger members are some who have moved from the Congo over the past years and are still new to life in America. A few times a year, the senior group takes time to meet with this group of Congolese and other members who are in their early 20s to discuss with them things that can be helpful for their day-to-day lives. They have discussed topics, such as building financial health, how to file taxes, and understanding social styles, which impacts how people behave and interact with one another. The dedication of these senior members, who answered the call to connect with younger generations, displays the love of Christ in a unique way as the relationships between these seemingly different groups of people continues to grow.

In addition to the examples we might see around us on the importance of growing and investing in the relationships we have with fellow believers, Deuteronomy also gives us guidance on this growth: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up... (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).

We can expand these verses beyond parents raising children in their homes and apply this call of action to all members of the “family,” i.e. the community of believers. It is up to all of us to ensure that as children transition into youth and young adult life, they know the love and teachings of God, and they feel supported and encouraged in their journey of faith. And, further, it is important that we are diligent in this work, as Deuteronomy says, continuously teaching the ways of God at all times and in all situations. Not only does this help our children to learn and grow, but it is also a way that we can offer praise to God, by speaking of Him and sharing His word and our experiences of faith with others.

There are many benefits when we bridge the “gap” between generations.

  • When we intentionally take time to connect with others, we build relationships, which allows trust and love to develop and grow. Then as time moves on, we now have people we can turn to for encouragement, support, and help.
  • Proverbs 22:6 tells us, when we invest in children and help them to learn the ways of God, this remains with them throughout their lives, especially in times of difficulty, building on a foundation of trust and hope in God in any season of life.
  • We share our faith down through the generations. In Psalm 89:1, we read, I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; with my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations. When we experience God’s goodness in our lives, we share that with others. Continuously praising Him in our lifestyle, i.e. remaining humble and owing all success to Him, gives us the opportunity to pass the source of joy down to others.
  • We learn more about the world, and even ourselves, when we expose ourselves to the experiences of others. This is especially true as we connect with those who are older or younger than we are, as they have lived through or grown up in different times. Learning about others helps us to appreciate that God has created and gifted each person uniquely and that He loves each one equally.

We come to realize that we are all the church, all the time. It is our mission to reach out to all people, and even though at times, we enjoy connection with those closer to our age or interests, we must strive to cross over any boundaries and embrace all whom the Lord brings our way. Our fellowship should become more and more inclusive and deepen the connections between us. It is our desire to be together, and this became more painfully evident as we experienced the pandemic over the past time. It forced us to find new ways to interact with each other, outside of the divine service, using the means available to us.

We strive to prepare for and experience the return of Christ. We seek to know our Savior more intimately, to feel our Father’s power more majestically, and to rely on the Holy Spirit more intensively. This time period, like all that have preceded it, may seem to have unique challenges when it comes to connecting with and offering pastoral care to others. There are limitless demands on limited resources. Nevertheless, in each challenging time, bold and decisive people were required who could rise to the challenge.

Let’s allow the compassion God has for us to inspire us to overcome and embrace the differences that are among us. In the love of Christ, we can accept, understand, build relationships with, and offer care to others.

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